Lead Story

Researchers at Cornell University recently patented an artificial dog that would speed up the breeding of fleas for lab use. Previously the lab required 25 live, severely infected dogs to produce the 12,000 fleas per day needed to study allergic reactions to fleas.

Weird Law

Colorcraft Corporation, a photo-processing firm, recently filed an appeal in federal court challenging a Florida judge’s ruling in a worker’s-compensation case. The Jacksonville judge had ruled that Colorcraft employee Ruth Jandrucko is entitled to full disability benefits because she becomes hypervigilant and “extremely” nervous in situations in which she might encounter black males in the workplace. Her stress disorder stems from a mugging incident in which she suffered a fractured vertebra. Colorcraft has so far been required to pay her more than $50,000 in disability benefits.

Ronald St. John received $290,000 in April in Middletown, Connecticut, to settle his lawsuit against his former psychologist over the death of St. John’s daughter. St. John had stabbed the seven-year-old to death but was found not guilty by reason of insanity. He blamed her death on the psychologist, who had not been available for consultation while St. John was having the breakdown that led to the murder.

Sculptress Cynthia Plaster Caster, who creates plaster-of-paris models of rock stars’ penises, has recently been battling music mogul Herb Cohen over the ownership of 25 of her gems, including a cast of Jimi Hendrix’s penis. In May several local bands staged a benefit concert at Metro (“Hard Aid”) to help with her legal fees.

The 15,000-member Surfrider Foundation, an association of California surfers, is negotiating with Chevron Oil Corporation over surfing issues. Chevron has constructed jetties into the ocean to protect underground pipes for its refinery near Manhattan Beach. Surfrider claims the jetties have altered the patterns of waves in the area and that Chevron should somehow compensate the area’s surfers. Surfrider recently won a $5.8 million lawsuit against two paper mills for polluting the Pacific Ocean north of San Francisco and thus harming surfers’ interests.

In August the Wyoming Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional a state law requiring a minor to forfeit his driver’s license if convicted of an alcohol- or drug-related offense. The court said the law was cruel and unusual punishment.

A judge in Surrey, British Columbia, found Alison Menz not guilty of indecency against a Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer in June. To demonstrate her contempt for the officer, Menz had removed her clothing, cupped her breasts with her hands, and “offered” them to the officer. Said Judge Francie Howard, “Her action was basically akin to what is known as giving someone the finger.”

Cliches Come to Life

Davenport, Iowa, police officer Wayne Dawson recently filed a lawsuit against the Donut Time shop over a January 1991 incident in which he slipped on ice on the shop’s walkway. He had been taking a break in the shop and was about to go back on duty.

Results of research at Memphis State University, released in April, showed that kids’ metabolism rates drop 40 percent faster while they are watching TV than while they are merely sleeping. Said a researcher, “If [the kids] watch enough TV, more than 2 1/2 hours a day, they’ll gain weight just due to TV’s impact on their metabolic rate.”

Syndicated columnist Jack Anderson reported in March on a courtroom setback suffered by the U.S. Postal Service. USPS needed to send its counsel an expert-witness list to a Dayton, Ohio, court by the next day for an employment-discrimination case. The list was sent from Washington, D.C., by the USPS’s overnight Express Mail service, but did not arrive for ten days.

In July a 13-year-old boy, trying to fend off imminent arrest by police in Covington, Kentucky, rigged his home with several booby traps based on ideas he had gotten from the movie Home Alone. As officers entered the house, in which the boy lives with only his great-grandmother, they had to duck 12-inch nails, open scissors, and a vat of concrete triggered by trip wires; handle doorknobs covered with lard and pieces of glass; and climb steps that were soaped or greased or studded with protruding nails.

Creme de la Weird

In June town councilors in Hearst, Ontario, ended the longtime tradition of putting prospective bridegrooms on public display by locking them in cages in the center of town. The tradition usually went no further than allowing the townspeople to throw eggs and tomatoes at the men for a price–in part to help the couple get started financially–but a few years ago, in an extreme case, one man was given an enema with a grease gun. Local clergy advised the councilors that some men so fear the practice that they decline to marry altogether.

Attention Disorder

The recent Miss America contestant from Mississippi, Kandace Williams, claimed in her one-page biography to be a descendant of Julius Caesar and a second cousin to Kenny Rogers and to have a rare “magnetic electrolytic body chemistry which makes (me) a human magnet.” A spokesman for Kenny Rogers said her name didn’t ring a bell.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Shawn Belschwender.